The Hot Blog Archive for June, 2011

Added Cars 2 Note…

There is ZERO benefit to this movie being in 3D, aside from cash flow.

There were, maybe, three shots in the film where I really even noticed the 3D.

I love Pixar. I believe in Pixar. But in this case, it’s just a cash grab.

Really, I expect more of Lasseter, who is a true lover of the form.


Delivelution: June 23, 2011

So today, Viacom pressed its case against Cablevision as regards the portable app that basically extends the cable experience to your portable device… for free.

We are seeing the same thing, again, and again, and again. Content value has been reinvigorated by streaming and more specifically, Everything Everywhere delivery options. Personally, I don’t believe this revenue stream will ever replace The DVD Bubble, but none of these companies want to take that chance. After all, whatever the revenue options are and will be, maximizing that opportunity is the best any company can do.

There may, indeed, be a loophole in the contract. Apparently, Cablevision is counting on this holding up. In a release, back when this fight started in April, they offered, “Cablevision has been serving customers with switched digital cable for more than five years. Advanced Digital Cable allows the company to switch in multiple digital formats, as its customers continue to buy the latest display devices.”

I don’t have the contract and I am not an expert in the nomenclature of cable rights. Like the unlikely-to-be-renewed-as-is relationship Starz, Netflix and the content creators, Sony & Disney, these deals look a lot different in the light of new technologies.

Meanwhile, Viacom has recently sold streaming rights to Hulu… though some shows, like South Park, are still streaming on Netflix as well. They also sell episodes on iTunes. They also give away the episodes for free at the site, which is loaded with ads for Paramount movies and The Book of Mormon.

Point is, it’s their content and they will monetize it – or not monetize it – if they like and how they like.

If, somehow, Cablevision had started this program before Netflix made their deal with Relativity and EPIX, the studios would have probably let it pass – for a while – just to see if there was any real interest out there… any money to be made. But Netflix and Hulu and others have made it clear… there is money there… so f*** “free.”

It’s not like Cablevision isn’t in a similar boat with their own content. They are spinning off their cable networks – AMC, WE TV, IFC, Sundance Channel and IFC Films – into its own company, hoping to raise the value of this group of businesses by disconnecting it from the cable business. Lionsgate just sold rights to Netflix to stream Mad Men for about $1 million an episode. I wonder how they feel about, which streams those episodes for free… illegally.

Speaking of Hulu… I keep reading dumb, myopic stuff about Hulu on the web. The idea that Hulu was some grand idea gone wrong is just missing the reality. Netflix changed the game from, “Let’s get the reruns off our networks and slowly build a streaming business” to “Hey… those guys are paying a ton of money for the reruns and old movies we thought we squeezed every last dime out of… let’s take their money.” This all happened a year ago, not in 2008, when Hulu was created.

It is completely fair to say that the value proposition of Hulu, getting reruns and great library content, on any device at any time, is often thwarted by too much of the new content at Hulu not being available at Hulu Plus. The assumption of most – me included – was, I think, that everything that was on Hulu would be on Hulu Plus, streamed, for $8 and now, $7 a month.

Worse, the series that are available on Hulu and not Hulu Plus seem random and unpredictable. Food Network Star… not on Hulu Plus? The View? Are they saving it for a DVD box set? 30 Rock, yes. Community, no? Huh? Etc, etc, etc.

I would watch USA Network shows on my iPad now and again… maybe even pop them up on the TV via the PS3 and Hulu Plus. But I have almost no interest at all at watching them on my computer.

So, yes, there is a problem with Hulu Plus. The same is true of Netflix… but Netflix has a much bigger base of product, they offer DVDs, and most importantly, Netflix is not perceived as a victim of its limitations. Hulu-Plus is. And it’s not unfair.

That leaves the ad business on Hulu, which is quite healthy, actually. But the bottom line remains the bottom line. This market is in its infancy, but one player is paying premium prices for everything they buy. The #2 player was created to carry the water of three studios… but isn’t being allowed to do so, in part because of the #1 player raising the bar of content costs.

This all is very much like the studios in the indie business. They saw the opportunity. They ate it all up. And then, when the competition amongst Dependents was raised up and over the $20m a movie bar by John Lesher and Paramount, real money could be lost… and it wasn’t so exciting. Moreover, when the divisions were successful, but still weren’t as profitable as a single comic book movie could be each year, the bloom was completely off the rose.

You have to know what your business is and what is realistic to expect of it, if you want to succeed. There is no reason why Hulu can’t continue to grow and thrive. But the likelihood that it will throw $1 million an episode off… ever, much less right now… based primarily on ad sales, is about zero. But Netflix isn’t going to do that for many shows either. And when you get down to the mid-range and low-interest shows, Hulu will probably be competitive.

If Hulu can ever get their owners, NBC, Fox, and ABC to agree to put everything on Hulu and Hulu Plus for 2-4 weeks after airing with some material remaining available and some not, Hulu Plus will be competitive with Netflix on subscriptions.

If I can watch Glee on Hulu Plus, but not So You Think You Can Dance, something is seriously f-ed up and word of mouth will suffer.

But the basic question, “What is Hulu worth without programming?” is simply idiotic. What is Netflix worth without programming? What is you local tv channel worth without programming? There is no specific thing Hulu NEEDS to be in order to be of value. It just needs to be BE something specific that can be sold. Hulu extended to your iPad and phone was a great notion… but it’s not true right now.

In the end, everyone – and Netflix is absolutely included in this – has to pick their spots.

Obviously, someone could buy Hulu and waste the value it does have. Obviously, the 3 studios that own Hulu, are not clear on what they want it to be now.

But just as the market for indie is more wide open than ever, with the bigger studio money sucked out of the equation to a great degree, there is the opportunity to take advantage of the situation. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to find a $100 million grossing indie in your first year. But there is a very nice business to be done on smaller films with smaller price tags that will make a profit.

If you have to be Searchlight overnight, you will soon be out of business. But if you want to build a business… a real business… and you have some money, there is plenty of room to not only survive, but to thrive. Same with Hulu.

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Bad Teacher/Cars 2

I’m a little surprised how much negativity there is around Bad Teacher so far. This is not like The Hangover: Part II, where I felt the film was much more slick and professional than Bridesmaids, while still making me laugh often, and therefore “better.” I had a really good, really unexpected time at Bad Teacher. I was turned off by the ad campaign over the last months… but then, really liked the supporting cast… thought Diaz was absolutely solid and surprising… and ultimately, felt it had some of that edge that The Hangover really had the first time that Bridesmaids was selling, but not delivering. Bridesmaids was a lot of fun, but something else.

It’s always possible that I was particularly open to those jokes at that moment… though the audience was with me for most of my laughs. Don’t know. Want to go back now. I don’t think I would flip on the film, but degree of pleasure might have been exaggerated or muted.

Then again, when I hear someone talking about Diaz’ character being too nasty, I wonder whether they saw the entire film or get what the subject was… or maybe they just don’t want women to be as vain and self-involved as men.

As for Cars 2… it was fine.

I didn’t expect much. I didn’t get much. It looks great. The voice performances are strong. But there is none of the Pixar kink that we have come to know and love. It’s a functioning, quality cartoon. It’s not a special event for adults.

But it will make a boatload of dough. And that’s what maters, uh, matters… no?

Thing is, I think it means a lot more than that to John Lasseter. As much as the other films mean to their directors. So… for those who love it, love it. I’ll throw Persepolis in the Blu-ray player and be perfectly happy.


MSN’s Film Fan… Take A Look

Okay, folks… welcome to a six week experiment in web cross-promotion. The embed below is for MSN’s FilmFan, a 5-minute or so weekly package on the upcoming openings and a little chit-chat about the last week’s box office or whatever. I am being paid to post this… and MSN wants to know what you think of it, so please hold the nasty-for-nasty’s-sake to a minimum, but be as honest and direct as you like, pro or con.

They are interested in “community involvement,” but I’m not quite sure how to involve this particular group, other than to treat you like adults and let you let me know if you want any more involvement. There are t-shirts and gift cards in the offing… but are you a t-shirt and gift card crowd?

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the Sami…

<br /><a href=";src=v5:embed::&#038;fg=sharenoembed" target="_new"title="FilmFan:'Cars 2' and 'Bad Teacher'">Video: FilmFan:&#8217;Cars 2&#8242; and &#8216;Bad Teacher&#8217;</a>

*This is a sponsored content article that is a part of the MSN FilmFan blogger program.


Delivelution: Hulu

Hulu’s value is simple… it already exists.

Hulu’s problem is simple… it can’t created enough revenue at this stage to make its three studio partners as well-paid as they would be if Netflix was paying the big dollars it’s been paying for content in the last year.

Google, in particular, needs a platform that can be distinguished from the free YouTube as they try to move into a subscription/ad model for some content. Yahoo! would like to get there first, which makes a standing business attractive.

in the end, I believe a content player will own both Netflix and Hulu, unless either one functions as a stand-alone brand with a fairly specific niche of content.

The Hulu questions, right now, are:
1. Is Hulu really in Disney’s plan for world domination?
2. Would Fox be better served right now by owning Hulu outright?
3. Does Comcast have a real vision at this point for the future of their digital/streaming business?

The idea of three studios coming together was great… until other content buyers entered the market and were willing to pay more than the Hulu model earned, split 4 ways (with their investors being the fourth entity). Now every one of these businesses sees things differently and have been emboldened to feel they can do a streaming business on their own. And they can. And they likely will.

Selling Hulu would make the investment profitable and simply delay the inevitable tipping point at which point studios will be ready to go back to owning the delivery systems that have primary use of their content.

Jeff Bewkes spoke, out loud, what they are all thinking about Netflix… and ultimately Hulu. Boiling it down… “Nice place to stream your old stuff that no one wants to pay for, so long as they keep paying so well.”

And that suggests one reason for the trio of studios to keep Hulu. If they fully committed to the idea of Hulu (And Hulu Plus) being a warehouse for pretty much every old show they have in their libraries (Universal is a lot more invested in this, so far, than the other two) as well as the first month of reruns for ABC, NBC, and Fox, and a solid selection of their back catalogs of feature films, Hulu is more than competitive with Netflix immediately… and more than Netflix long-term.

But then you have FX and the Universal movie and old TV cable/satellite channels, and Disney Channels to fill. You have Netflix throwing money at libraries, often in non-exclusive deals, making it too good to not grab. And you still have dozens of pay-tv channels, as well as basic cable channels looking to pay for content now.

Netflix has the image of being “everything.” It’s not true, but it’ how people see them. For Hulu to be Netflix II, it needs to set it’s flag. But without clarity from ownership, it’s strength becomes its weakness and as much as people, like me, can see its value, it cannot be effectively sold – especially as a pay service – to tens of millions more customers who would be well served by Hulu Plus.

Look at how cleanly Time-Warner has handled HBOGo. I don’t know what their long game is, but they have made great inroads into winning hearts and minds by being smart, relentless, and less precious about launching on the service and not just on the network. True Blood will gets its opening numbers… and then, HBO isn’t scared of taking a little bit of the heat of the fastball by making Episode 2 of the new season available online.

Netflix proved it. Anything is possible, so long as you focus. Until, of course, things change.

To me, the future seems a lot less complex for the consumer than it has been before… but until we get to that future, everything is up in the air… waiting for the content owners to focus.


DP/30: Bad Teacher, director Jake Kasdan


The Women of Kubrick

In honor of the release of WB Home Entertainment’s magnificent 9-film Blu-ray collection of Kubrick,as well as the 40th Anniversary of A Clockwork Orange, my droogies, I’ve been working on some projects. This is a piece that didn’t quite evolve into more than an interesting clip package.

Kubrick’s relationship with women was always interesting. His films are really all about men. But he has some smart women, some powerful women, many victimized women, and a lot of naked women throughout his films. This little snippet is Safe For Work… so it’s limited. But any ride down memory lane with Kubrick is good by me.


BYOB Tuesday

So… it turns out I am going on a last minute junket (travel and accommodations paid for by a studio) to a faraway land. And I am training myself on the new Final Cut Pro. And I am trying to process more DP/30s than I know what to do with. And I am working on a project for Ebert Presents At The Movies. And…well… other stuff too trivial to bother you with. All I can say is, I’m soaking in it.

And here’s a fresh new BYOB without any drunk driving attached so you can go in clean…


DP/30: Rejoice And Shout, director Don McGlynn

Apologies… the front title for the film is in error. The film is not showing at LAFF. It is now in release in select theaters. A corrected intro will be switched out ASAP, but we wanted to get you the interview sooner than later.

1 Comment »

Delivelution: June 20, 2011

Last week, there were a few things worth noting on our journey into the future.

The New York Post decided to cut off iPad access to its online content. To many this seemed extreme, but it seems to me that they were following in the footsteps of the New York Times. The Paper of Record has not cut off iPad access via Safari, but to use the paper’s iPad app. one has to pay a premium price… an extravagant premium price. And besides that seeming absurd on so many levels, it is all the more so because the iPad app isn’t very good. (As in, it ain’t the WSJ, still the best newspaper app on the market.) Everyone is looking for the right combination of free and getting people who are willing to pay to pay. Sounds of outrage seem to be coming from the one place it really matters to people, which is also a city in which there is probably a higher percentage of iPad use than anywhere else… Nueva York.

I’ve noticed an increase in ads on HuluPlus this last week, at least for their more current programming. Another service with optional payment for additional services, Box Office Mojo, seems to have a new policy on ads… which is that I am now seeing them – and having service slowed by them – even while paying for a Premier Pass. (The price for a year’s access also went up.) This seems to be the next step for these companies and no doubt others. First, they got people to pay for a mostly free service… now, they are comfortable pushing their paying customers incrementally. In both of these cases, personally, additional advertising encumbrances may change my attitude about paying for the services. And a big part of that is that neither company, while accepting my money, bothered to inform me of the changes in policy or number of ads. In my view, the #1 way to irritate your customer base – ask the record business – is to make them feel taken for granted and like your business thinks they are suckers. Yellow flag.

HBO continues to build its iPad platform, HBOGo, heavily promoting that the second episode of the new season of True Blood will be available via the service a week before airing. They did this with Game of Thrones, Episode 7 a couple of months ago. HBOGo is collaborating with the cable companies, smartly not threatening them with a tool that will promote cord cutting, but at the same time protecting themselves from cord cutting. At the same time, if Netflix or Hulu or whomever will pony up big dollars, it’s clear that HBOGo will also align with those companies to make the service available to their customers. (Ironically, the biggest cable outlet not working with HBOGo so far is Time Warner Cable.)


BYOB 62011


Weekend Estimates by Klady

Not a lot of change from Friday numbers. It does seem that Mr. Popper’s Penguins didn’t make the case that it was a family movie to enough families… too much Jim Carrey, not enough, “Mommy, I NEED to see those funny penguins.” The estimate is just below Yes Man, which was the first JIM CARREY movie (meaning, a broad live-action comedy with a wide release focused on Carrey as the lead) to fail to gross $100m in a decade. The only worse JIM CARREY opening in the last decade was Fun With Dick & Jane, which opened in the often-slow movie week before Christmas (and got to $110m domestic).

The question about Carrey’s career – aside from the fact that he can still open a movie to double-digits with his head on a poster – is answered by looking at his movies. He hasn’t really had a break out since 2003’s Bruce Almighty, which was a big surprise at the time with near $500m worldwide. For Carrey, a $100m domestic gross is a double. The guy needs some triples and homers again. It’s been a while.

Solid hold from Super 8, but nothing suggesting that we have a phenom.

X:Men: First Class continues to be in sync (a few million behind) the original X-Men. That’s domestically. Internationally, though it is hard to be sure how much is left in the tank, it looks like First Class could improve on the first film significantly… but still not enough to put it in the class of the other sequels.

The Hangover: Part II continues to hang on, moving ever closer to my guess at what the sequel would do. It closes in on $470 million this weekend worldwide. Ironically, after Todd Phillips’ rant, the most accurate guesses I made going into the summer seem to be on the three WB movies so far, as I was pretty close on Something Borrowed and Green Lantern (so far) as well.

Midnight in Paris ended up being off an estimated 12%, which is not a tragedy – as some seem to think I claimed yesterday – but the natural course of things on films this size. This expansion was only 10% and it mitigated a bigger drop this weekend. SPC could go for one more expansion, though my guess is that this last one was a bit of a stunt, wanting to promote the widest Woody release. In any case, the film will pass Priest in short order (domestically only) and will likely pass Jumping The Broom to become the top Dependent release of the summer so far.

I still don’t quite know what’s going on in Searchlight’s mind. It seems like they have decided to stay out of the business of competing with the majors at any time other than Oscar time. The Art of Getting By has a brutal title and now has a brutal opening to go with it. The Malick is doing pretty well. But Win Win, with just over $10m, is looking like it may be the division’s big grosser for the year before the awards frenzy in late fall. Next up, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, then Another Earth, then Martha Marcy May Marlene. They can be proud of the film in the line-up, but they can’t really expect much attention at the box office with this slate… until they bring the Payne and the Madden at year’s end. Sony Classics has one film that has outgrossed the entire 2011 line-up at Searchlight so far.

There are three new indies on 4, 2, and 2 screens with five-figure per-screens… the new math of indie.


The Hot Blog

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon